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Our Distorted Perception of Identity

In “Of the Inconsistency of Our Actions,” Montaigne explains how our perception of one’s identity is distorted: we often judge one based on their actions, the result of the situation they are in; however, we should actually judge one based on their circumstance when performing the action. It is futile to understand identity through human action as people often contradict themselves in their actions: “Pope Boniface VIII, they say, entered office like fox, behaved in it like a lion, and died like a dog” (362). One’s action is not a direct reflection of who they are or what principals they stand for. Instead, it is only a reflection of “circumstance [that] carries us” (363). While a soldier of Antigonus was ill, he fought bravely as he had less to lose on the battlefield, but upon being healed for his illness as a reward for his valor, he appears more cowardly. It should not perplex those who study humans that the soldier seems to contradict himself. The difference in action between the two situations does not mean that the soldier’s inherent personality changed—that his sudden timidity contradicts his longstanding valor. The soldier is merely adjusting to the new circumstances presented in front of him. Human actions are only relative to circumstances, not to identity.

Is Othello a tragic hero or not

The definition for tragic hero is a literary character who makes a judgment error that inevitably leads to his own destruction. I think it rationally define the destiny of Othello. Othello is the protagonist and hero in the story. He won many battles and wars and earned his honor and status little by little, then eventually respected by people around him despite his race in that age. However, in the latter scene, he mistrusted Iago, the antagonist, who insinuated that his wife might cheated on him with Cassio. There are several factors caused his jealousy mainly including his race, age and lack of communication. His age is much older than his wife, Desdemona. Mostly importantly, lack of communication is the key factor caused his downfall of his honor. He eventually ended up with tragedy where he murdered his wife.

Dante’s Desire

Dante story had an essentially common sequence of events for that of a narrative. He initially started off wondering in the darkness of the woods and ended up reveling in the brightness of god. Started in confusion and ended in definitive enlightenment. Not to unusual, and there are also many signs that it is destined to be. For instance, all the three verses ended with the word “stars.” So no matter where Dante was, his final destination was ordained to be paradise bound, a happy ending if you will. Sense the author is depicting a tail of himself it’s typical that he would make it so. Considering Dante’s factual life, wondering in his exile, perhaps it was an ending he wanted to truly attain for himself. Saying the whole purpose of the entire tail is one of self-reassurance for eventual peace is more than a fair assumption.

The Relationship between Dante and Virgil

            Virgil is a man with many good and noble virtues. He is a guide and protective to Dante’s journey in different levels of hell. Dante is a poet who does a great job on literature works and poems, because of his sympathetic and spiritual minds. Even though he is seen to be a genius as a poet and to be holding a high esteem for Virgil, his spiritual minds are getting into a high level from the guidance of Virgil. Indeed, the relationship between Dante and Virgil is gradually developing as they move through various circles in Hell. For instance, he explains many details, structures, and functions of the hell as patiently as he can in order to familiarize him with his journey. Also, he reminds Dante not to be sympathetic to the dammed souls, because these souls are here for punishment by God. These examples show how important Virgil is to Dante in his journey. In the end, their relationship evolves stronger and stronger and establishes mutual respects. Dante not only regards Virgil as his friends but as the person who he trusts deeply in his life.

The Greatest Sin of All

All men may be created equal, but not all sins are created equal. In the Inferno, Dante describes the 9 circles of Hell that he passes through and the corresponding severity of the sins to which they are assigned. The first circle of Hell includes simply those who did not believe in Christ during their lives, and as the circles increase, the sins get progressively darker and more unforgivable. The 9th circle includes the most deadly of sins – betrayal. At the bottom of this circle lies the greatest sinners in history, condemned for their betrayal against God or a benefactor – Judas Iscariot, for his betrayal of Jesus, and Brutus and Cassius, for their betrayal of Julius Cesar. These three men are forever trapped in ice, destined to have their heads gnawed at by Satan for the rest of eternity. This gruesome emphasis on repercussions against betrayals highlights Dante’s most important virtues – loyalty, love, integrity and trust. The circles of hell are prioritized over the affront of these virtues and of a  love of others and of God. For example, not believing in God is only a minor sin, but the more you push away from God, the worse the sin becomes. Blaspheming and speaking out against God is a sin worthy of 6 circles, and murder or violence against another of God’s beloved children is 7 circles. The 8th circle is for those who have committed “spiritual theft”, or have stolen away others from God’s love (seducers, hypocrites, falsifiers). And finally, the 9th circle is a direct betrayal of God or a benefactor’s trust and love. This method of prioritization shows that Dante believes that living a life dedicated to taking in God’s love allows for one to be an honorable and trustworthy person, for there is no greater pain than to be betrayed by the one you loved.

The afterlife thought

In Dante’s Divine Comedy, he uses his own imagination to describe how hell and heaven should be. He combines the ancient Greek and Rome mythology heroes and stories along with the ideas of hell that appears on the bible. Dante’s Commedia plays a big role on wrapping up the ultimate thought/goal in philosophy during the medieval period. Where does a human go afterlife? Are the dead really dead? Dante answers the question by showing the world his journey from inferno to paradiso. It is very outstanding back in that period of time. As a poet in the late dark age Dante provides the pictures for the people and his descendant to think and imagine hell and heaven. Instead of using the church’s orthodox way to tell people believe in God, Dante uses story telling a more human way to influence people to believe we do have afterlife and dead are not really dead.

Montaigne’s Desire to Escape European Society

Despite being a wealthy European, a retired French magistrate, Michel De Montaigne seemingly romanticizes the Native American lifestyle in his comparison between Europeans and other people in his essay “of Cannibals.” This is most likely due to his desire to escape European society to find a better place to live in. In his previous essay, “Of the Power of the Imagination,” Michel notes the power of people’s thoughts and makes the claim that the best and most useful thoughts come from nature. He continues his point in “Of Cannibals” on page 355, “all things…are produced by nature, by fortune, or by art: the greatest and most beautiful by one or the other of the first two, the least … by the last.” Throughout his essays, Montaigne, refers back to this idea.

This idea reinforces Michel’s view of the Native American lifestyle being superior.  Michel claims that the Native Americans know only two things, valor in combat and love for their wives.  This is closer to the pure and original nature of living beings since they do not know the Europeans corrupted tastes. Michel then rattles of the various corruptions, lying, treachery, dissimulation (pretense), avarice, envy, belittling, and pardon (forgiveness of an offense). These corruptions are artificial creations that degrade the quality of life in Europe and that are better left unknown to other people. When three Native Americans arrive in Europe, Montaigne recounts how they disapproved of the inequality between the rich and the poor and how they didn’t understand the concept of a young, inexperienced ruler. The scene ends with the Native Americans describing their natural order where everyone followed the captain into battle, with the captain leading from the front.

Montaigne’s description for the innocence of the Native Americans continues as he describes their beliefs, simple daily life, and the foundations of their subsistence society and how they relate to various ideal societies, including references to Plato’s Ideal City. While this clearly reflects Montaigne’s favoritism, this shows the reader a huge insight and motivations of Montaigne’s behavior. While Montaigne could have been a rich magistrate in France, he instead chose to retreat from French politics. In his retreat, he constantly meditated and wrote. This shows that not only does Montaigne like Native American society, but despises his own.  Montaigne’s writings ultimately provide an escape route from his current reality into a world he finds simpler, purer, and more comforting than the one he currently inhabits.

Medieval Love Poetry

Question: How do any of the following poets’ views on love compare? – Ibn Zaydun, Arnaut Daniel, Guido Guinizzelli, Guido Cavalcanti, Petrarch, and Louise Labé.

While all the medieval poets listed above mainly wrote poetry about courtly love, their interpretations of the process and their thoughts on love itself varied quite dramatically. Ibn Zaydun and Petrarch were very similar in their thoughts on love. Their poetry definitely embodied the idea of courtly love, in the sense that the males in the poetry longs very emotionally for their loved ones. However, in both cases, those loved ones were incredibly distant from the males and were seen mostly as objects for adoration. Love was written exclusively on an emotional level, which is strange given that both poets completely ignored one half of a relationship, by never really giving any perspective on the distant females that were being adored by the poets. Louise Labe, a female medieval poet, was unique in that he explored almost the same emotions that the previous poets did, except from the female perspective instead. However, despite writing about females, most of the characters in her poetry had the same emotional ties to their loves as the characters talking about their loves ones in Zaydun’s and Petrarch poems.

Arnaut Daniel, unlike the previous poets, does not refer to loves ones as being distant, but simply unreachable due to position. Daniel also seems to disagree with Guido Guinizzelli. Guinizzelli wrote heavily about how love could “always repair” the “noble heart.” He seemed to imply even unfulfilled love had its benefits. However, Daniel mentions in his poetry that if his love is not reciprocated, his love “murders” him and “sends herself to hell.” Guide Cavalcanti was another poet who disagreed with Guinizzelli in that he saw love as a neutral yet powerful emotion whose results were dictated by those in love. He did not simply see love as always beneficial. As shown, there were clearly many different interpretations of love by medieval poets.


What is the role of love in the Commedia?

An important theme in Dante’s Commedia is the theme of love. Although it is not often mentioned in the story, love is what drives Dante to go through the stages of Hell. One of the reasons Dante is traveling through Hell is to look for his lover, Beatrice, hoping to find her in one of the stages. The movie we watched in class “What Dreams May Come”, helped me actually picture Dante desperately looking for Beatrice. Love is also what drives Dante to not sin because he wants to receive the love of God so he doesn’t get placed in Hell. Love is sort of like a motivation for Dante; even though he kept fainting during the stages in hell, he still managed to keep going and get through all of them.

Consider the relationship between Dante and Virgil

As we witness Dante being embarked on a journey through hell, we also see his trusted sidekick by his side; Virgil. Even though it is evident that Virgil serves as a literal tour guide as Dante is lost on his journey, it is also implied that his purpose dwells deeper than just a human compass. Virgil seems to be portrayed as a guardian angel to Dante. He provides a powerful presence that provides protection and guidance to Dante. It could be compared to that of a conscience or intuition. On a number of occasions Dante is spared from the dangers of hell with the help of Virgil. The fact that Dante was going though an ordeal such as traveling through the depths of hell suggests that Dante had lost his way, not only physically, but mentally as well. Virgil is then seen as a voice of reason who will not only guide him through hell but also guide him though the soulful journey he is facing within himself.